Story by Uy Chanthon | Senior Program Manager | Heifer Cambodia
Photos by Sao Sokhim | Community Facilitator | Heifer Cambodia
The Malay district in Cambodia was one of the Khmer Rouge's strongholds during the civil war. Hundreds of civilian lives were claimed in the Malay district before the war ended in 1991. And thousands became amputees, unable to return to farming because more than one-third of the district was filled with land mines.
Meas Saran's husband was killed during the world, and she was left with two children to care for by herself. The Cambodian government granted her a small piece of property cleared of land mines to build a home. But the land isn't large enough to produce rice.
In 2012, Heifer International's Improving Income and Nutrition through Community Empowerment project was started in Meas' community. She became a member of a self-help group (SHG) and learned about the 12 Cornerstones for Just and Sustainable Development and animal management. As part of the project, she also received 20 chickens, feed and crop seeds.
"The trainings I received are very helpful for me," Meas said. "I realized that I can do many things when I have a chance."
She also borrowed from the SHG fund to buy two piglets. Her late husband's family saw her skills and success in raising animals and gave her two cows. To thank his family for this, Meas shares half of the milk and other profits from the cow with them. She now owns two cows, two pigs and more than 100 chickens, and she maintains a home garden.
"Through saving with my SHG group, I can borrow money to expand the chicken pen. As it expands, I can raise and sell more chickens and continue to earn more and more." Meas said. "I am committed to passing on my chickens to another needy family very soon when my chickens grow bigger."
Meas shares vegetables from her garden with neighbors in need, thanks to her Cornerstones training. "The Cornerstones inspired me and other villagers," she said. "We share and help each other. I always give things I have to my relatives and neighbors, and they do, too. I also gave small chickens to my relatives in another village so that they can have more food to eat."
The village chief in Meas' community is impressed by her transformation. "Meas is an outstanding SHG member, not just improving her living condition, but also sharing what she has and helping her neighbors in dealing with domestic violence. She is a role model for other villagers and it would be good to introduce her to other villages so that they can learn from her good practices."
Smiling, Meas said, "I believe I can improve myself and my living conditions. I am confident in raising animals, and I am thankful to Heifer Cambodia for selecting my community to implement this project."